As we round the corner she spots what she’s been looking for, an open expanse of trail. She turns around, her eyes searching for my nod of approval. When she sees it, she takes off in a full sprint, her silent strides only interrupted by the occasional joy filled giggle.
She loves to run.
Suddenly her gate slows to a stop and she covers her mouth with one telling finger. Shhhh….. She has spotted something. I creep closer to spot her discovery. Its a lizard. Probably the tenth we have seen one our hike but no less exciting than the first. He does his chest pumping dance and then scurries under a rock. She is overcome with joy and squeals with excitement. Nature through her eyes is pure magic.
Our hike through Laguna Canyon was a special one. I love when I am able to spend time one on one with my children, especially when we are doing something they love. Mari is my little clone. She loves animals, the outdoors, and hiking. So when we get to hike together, we are two peas in a pod. She asks me about animals and what sorts of food they eat and I point out different flower species to someone who actually has genuine interest.
We headed up Willow Canyon at a fast pace. Most of the time I was trying to keep up with Mari. We stopped occasionally to check out the new crop of poppies and point out tracks that animals had left in the mud.
We admired boulder outcrops in the distance and talked about when we had explored rocky caves in hikes past.
As we reached the top of the hill, we took in the view. I tried to help Mari grasp the concept of those little bumps in the distance actually being the mountains near our home. I wonder if three year olds are as taken aback by grand views as adults are…
As we wound our way down into Laurel Canyon, we admired the lush vegetation and a steep drop off which was for most of the year, a dry waterfall. We had some rains recently but not enough to get the water flowing over the edge. I imagine it must be a beautiful sight when the water does flow. We followed the barely trickling stream and stopped to peek at lizards who clung to sun filled portions of trail like they were tiny pieces of heaven.
On our way back to the trailhead, we passed a boulder that looked just like Blinky from Pac-Man (Or maybe it was Inky. Or Clyde).
Blinky, however, was not the most excited thing we came across on our hike. Just as the parking lot was in eye sight a snake slithered right across the trail in front of us. And not just any snake, a rattlesnake. A LARGE rattlesnake. I told Mari to stand back as I peered into the bushes to make sure he was gone. Suddenly a loud rattle came from the brush, causing me to gasp and poor Mari to cry with fear. I knew that rattlesnakes were not aggressive but I still wanted to get the heck out of there as fast as possible. I waited until he calmed down and then grabbed Mari and made a run for it. I have been hiking for years and I knew eventually I could come across a rattlesnake, but it was still a nerve jarring experience. I have since explained to Mari the differences between good snakes and bad snakes and have made sure she has had contact with the good snakes (at zoos and nature events) so she doesn’t develop an unhealthy fear of them. Spring is a common time of year to find reptiles on the trails so always be aware of where you are stepping and you should have no problems.
If you would like to hike the trails we did (don’t let our run in with the snake deter you, it certainly won’t deter us.), park at gate #6 on Laguna Canyon Road just west of El Toro Road. Take the Willow Canyon Trail up to the Laurel Spur and the Laurel Canyon Trail back down. The total loop is about 3.7 miles. For more information about Laguna Canyon Wilderness Park click here.